14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 15 July 2017 — The visit to Cuba by United Nations expert on Human Rights, Virginia Dandan, ended this Friday. The press conference she offered before leaving fueled expectations, after spending several days in an intense program of meetings and activities “on the ground.”
In her statements, however, the official from the Philippines made no mention of the human rights situation on the island, but merely praised its system of international cooperation. In passing, she regretted the country’s limitations in accessing new technology, due to the US embargo.
Her analytical myopia revived the criticism of many towards international agencies linked, or not, to the United Nations. An international “bureaucracy” that no longer responds to its original meaning and has become a lever of influence for some governments to manipulate its mechanisms and officials.
This practice came to a head when representatives from North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba joined the Permanent Council on Human Rights in Geneva. That these confessed violators occupy such responsibilities is not the most worrisome, rather it is that the rest of the world accepts it without pressing for their immediate dismissal.
In her statements, the Philippine official made no mention of the situation of human rights on the island, but merely praised its system of international cooperation
After that, there is little room for astonishment, but Mrs. Dandan has succeeded in sparking outrage against the agency she represents. Despite being an expert, she allowed herself to speak from disinformation about a government that does not hide from – and even prides itself on – violating the fundamental rights of its citizens.
It would have been enough for the expert to search in the social networks to find evidence of the situation Cubans live in. She would have seen the videos with the mobs gathered by the government shouting “down the human rights” and images of police searches where copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are taken as “proof” of the crime of subversive activity.
If, before arriving in Cuba, Dandan did not have time to check the internet, just looking out the window of the vehicle that brought her from the airport to the city she would have noticed the cult of personality that crushes, bores and frightens. The numerous billboards and posters that along the way impose the image of the two brothers who have ruled the country for almost 60 years are a distinctive detail of a totalitarianism, and should not have gone unnoticed by her keen eye.
On the other hand, Mrs. Dandan specializes in the area of education but did not go out into the streets of Havana to ask a child about the teaching of human rights in his or her school, or, more precisely, the rights of the child. Instead, she preferred meetings in the comfortable halls of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples or in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Undoubtedly, the Government of Raúl Castro estimated the usefulness of the expert’s visit and scheduled it to take place a few days after seeing the new Bilateral Agreement with the European Union
The expert could have inquired of any passer-by whether they belonged to one party or another, or who their favorite candidate is for the upcoming election, to receive the disturbing answer that there is only one party and the president is not directly elected. But was Virginia Dandan willing to listen to that part of reality?
Undoubtedly, the Government of Raúl Castro estimated the usefulness of the expert’s visit and scheduled it to take place a few days after seeing the new Bilateral Agreement with the European Union and its clause regarding respect for human rights that have so greatly bothered officialdom.
This situation coincided with the change of rhetoric of the United States and the new policy of Donald Trump towards the Island. “A good moment,” the Place of the Revolution surely must have thought, to pull out a letter and generate some positive headlines about human rights.
However, the opinion of the chosen expert has been so precarious and biased to make the diagnosis that she didn’t even manage to amortize the investment made by the Government to cover her days spent on the island.
In the case of Cuba, Dandan lost the opportunity to put her ear closer to parents, elders, young people, entrepreneurs trying to carry out an independent project and activists who report frequent human rights violations. She preferred to listen to the victimizers instead of the victims.